Poetry on the train

February 22, 2013

Reading poetry on the train, I’m always inspired to write a poem too.
Here’s a recent one, still in the rough, to help celebrate my friend Anna’s return to blogging. TrainDoorArchivist will be a great read.

Copy of poemTrain


The power of great shoes

February 22, 2013

Feet can be very difficult when it comes to shoes. Especially if they are naturally fairly narrow but have a pretty bulbous bunion just down from each big toe. Now, some of my best friends have bunions, and we could probably form a friendly society for frustrating feet, whose anthem would be the lament of the coveted shoe. My sports shoes are always from the men’s range – nice and wide, a bit bulky, and no colour choices (why that is I don’t know).

Searching for some sensible flats, I spotted a gorgeous shoe of the kind that I dream, on the specials table, noted the generous width, slipped it on, and it was obviously for me.


I’m not a big retail therapy kind of girl but this saved me an eventual trip to a shrink for the madness bunions can cause.

Meeting Aida and Ildiko

February 10, 2013

At the end of next month I am fortunate to be exhibiting some drawings and small paintings at Wangaratta Art Gallery.

Copy of lake_GatewayIsland

I have always loved the space, a converted chapel with movable walls and warm wooden ceiling.

Last night a show opened there that is surely a great treat for anyone who loves paint. My friend Jo Davenport’s work is hanging alongside Aida Tomescu, Ildiko Kovacs, Sally Gabori and Todd Hunter. A sumptuous room of colour and movement. Action/Abstraction it’s called, curated by Diane Mangan.

I was completely enthralled by Aida Tomescu as she spoke with clarity and conviction about the content, as distinct from the subject, in painting. No matter what the suject, and it may be indiscernible, as in abstraction, the content is what matters. She spoke about the unified nature of painting, about it’s own life, and we the nuturers of that life. It requires that paradoxical state (as does all creative work) of intelligent engagement and intuitive detachment.

Although these ideas are familiar to me, I was moved, and told her so as we spoke afterwards, and she said I need to read Flaubert.

This idea of the work being something other than me has always felt like a great relief. It depends on me only to draw it out, and then to let it be, for others to engage with.
Copy of LakeHume3

Nine months on

February 8, 2013

Well it’s been a while but it’s time to begin this story again. The stumbling block was a silly mistake of mine – I accidentally deleted most of the images off this blog, and realising the enormity of the task of reposting them, I ignored the whole thing for as long as I could. Over the next little while all or most will be restored.

In the meantime, here is a taste of things people to come. There are many babies arriving in my world, recently and soon. This mum is very keen to meet her babe sooner rather than later.


Jordi the private dog

April 23, 2012

Jordi and I have some things in common. We’re both quiet in the morning and rev up towards evening. The middle of the day is the best time to paint him, after he’s had a nap in each of his secret sleeping spots around the garden, and before his eagerness for a walk makes him too excitable.

But he doesn’t like to be watched or drawn or painted. So I have to be sneaky about it, pretend to be looking at something else, or doing other jobs in between. Eventually his suspicions get the better of him. He gives me the eye, gets up slowly, and finds a more private place.

These little sketches are done quickly, acrylic on paper, from inconspicuous moments of observation, and then trying to remember in between.

Yesterday I had the great pleasure to sit on the ground for about an hour and draw an old shed at my friend’s house.

The subject is a classic, though often maligned as well as misrepresented. Like me, many artists shy away from the lure of the ruin, because there is a tendency to go all nostalgic and sentimental, at the cost of a strong image. But how to do justice to the people who built and have used it, and the persistence of the building itself?

Perhaps it’s about the first impulse – if it gets under your skin. And then to use the power of that in the drawing process. The big shape, and the colour, are what got me.

And this red shed has a good story. Built by a circus performer who had worked in the United States, he built it tall to hold the tents. As soon as I saw it against the gorgeous autumn sky, I felt the pull to record it, with gusto.

Carneval Strings

February 27, 2012

A great night of music at Arts Space Wodonga, care of Arts Wodonga and Shows To Go. Many thanks to the very groovy mostly Hungarian musicians who kept us awake and laughing and loving their virtuosity. Everything from Vivaldi to the one hit wonder My Sherona.

Drawing in the nearly dark has its challenges if you need to see what you’re drawing, but otherwise it’s fun, and you end up with something like this.

Paint like a child

February 22, 2012

Recently I was invited, along with 4 other artists, to be part of an exhibition of works inspired by our children’s art, which would also be exhibited in the show. A fabulous project called A Child Could Have Done It.

The best part was remembering how children just draw or paint or make without worrying about the result ahead of time, and emulating that. So much fun.

Here is a painting by my son Tom just before he turned 5. It made me remember how he’d climb up onto the carport roof to watch the sun go down.

Gently comes the night

With veils of day soaked in dreams

As behind blinded windows we retreat,

But for children and the like.


She will wrap surprised creatures

In hues that unfold and hover

Like maids-in-waiting, then lightly

Drape the world in peaceful dark

Babies versus the art life

February 8, 2012

There is the pull towards the making, drawing, creating something out of the stuff that gets absorbed via curiosity and by just being open. The need to process and give it out again.

And then there’s the wanting children. Fortunately for me, I have three.

Wanting the two things – to make a great family and to make great art – sets up a pull between them. They each want full attention. It seems almost impossible to do both things well, at once.

Recently I found a stack of drawings that I made in the early days of raising a family. Modest drawings made in small moments. (Lots of sleeping babies.) And it looks to me now that, although I spent less time on the art side of things, in those moments I was so alive, and so glad to keep hold of that thread.

Making these drawings I was remembering who I am, in amongst the crowded days that belonged to my family. And now they are such a delight – a record of my children being who they are, apart from me, way back then. I felt it was imperative to make those moments, not only for myself.

Causes for worry

January 18, 2012

Since my last post, a considerable number of opportunities have presented themselves to me as practice for not worrying. Even before the post went up, it disappeared, due to a failure in the system to save a draft. So what you read is my rewrite from memory of the first attempt at publishing. An immediate test of my resolve. And only the first.

That evening I watched with alarm a doco about the diminishing numbers of big fish in the oceans and the consequences thereof. If you wish to test your own ability to not worry, it’s called The End of the Line. At the end of the film it suggests ways to help – a kindness to a worrier. (Mm, from worrier to warrior. Sorry)

But beyond small irritaions and global disasters is another catagory of worry that you suddenly have access to when you have a child, or three.

Two nights ago my youngest son Tom called me around 11 pm from a lonely tram stop in the suburbs. An over-active imagination being a classic cause of worry, he suddenly felt the need to talk to someone, and he figured I’d still be up. We talked until the tram arrived with one other man on it. We said goodbye, and I went back to bed.

Now, I knew it was a half hour trip home, so I lay there not worrying til midnight, then called to make sure he’d arrived safely.

During that half hour of waiting, while my grownup son travelled home on a tram in a faraway city, I found myself remembering events from his childhood. In particular, the first time I sent he and his two older brothers on a walk to the shops on their own to buy icecreams. It was a deliberate moment, a decision on my part to let go a little, and trust that they would be safe out in the world of that small town.
Copy of woodend_445

A favorite place to sit

December 19, 2011

Of late, I have a favorite spot to sit in my house, in my lounge room, on a small red couch under a simple lamp with a bendy neck, beside a low table where I might rest a cup or place a book. Many elderly people have a similar favorite spot, according to my friend who visits them at work. And now remembering that mum has such a thing too.
interior 1
So I wonder why I didn’t catch on to this idea earlier, because it’s a brilliant idea.

Sitting in this spot, I’m comfortable, well appointed to view the garden and the street beyond, or to simply read or write or play sudoku. It feels familiar now, so even my meditation practice comes easily here. Perhaps it has good Feng shui.

I’ve been watching Upstairs Downstairs and Wuthering Heights on the telly. Perhaps I’ve been bewitched by mild mannered women with needlework in their laps. Maybe I need a wild run on the moors instead? Or at least more regular walks with Jordi, because the danger of a favorite spot is the effort it takes to move from it. And now I must go to sleep – in my bed.

Public transport

November 8, 2011

“It’s embarrassing

lifting up your skirt in public.”


Cold avoidance of eyes

Ache of pride

Anger in the voice

Humiliation – to find himself a competitor.


Drop the lip

Shield the heart

Last word

Walk away


And he is left

In the absence of word-arrows

flying away with her

Anger now awkward.


I look up

And he has followed her

into the next carriage

the next exchange

With hope (cruel and needy)

In his gait

Train travel

November 4, 2011

A car is a room where one or two or several people are caught within each other’s space for a short or a long time. The most intimate conversations can be had, and the most deafening silences felt.

Public transport offers something different. The same intimate conversations can occur, but with an audience. The same silences can be felt, but from strangers, who hide in a book or feign sleep or are trapped in shyness or glare if attempted contact misfires.

I spent many hours on public transport over the last couple of days, and thoroughly enjoyed most of it. A chance to remember my place in collective human-kind.
Copy of southern_cross_station
A warm shawl around me while I drew this fabulous roof, “Are you OK there? It’s a bit cold. Ah yes you still have 14 minutes.” said a friendly conductor (not the fat controller).

Copy of train travellers
This young man thanked me for drawing him. And so did the woman. But her friend glowered at me for my intrusion so I didn’t risk any further eye contact and was happy to not draw her. Most people, though a little self-conscious, are taken over by curiosity and want to see the drawing. I love these gentle meetings with strangers.

Why do artists attend figure drawing sessions all their lives? Because it’s perhaps the most pleasurable drawing experience there is.
I hear it’s because it’s challenging, and good for ‘keeping your eye in’, and an essential skill. But for me, it’s an amazing way to access the present moment. I don’t fidget and wish I was somewhere else, or drift away to another time and place. How wonderful that someone is staying still, without the hinderance of clothes, just so we can draw them.

figure squat
Drawing is always what I return to. It can settle my busy mind, show me a new way to see, help me understand how things work. As a child I played a game called Countries with my brothers and sisters. There were lots of rules but I mostly remember drawing in the dirt with a stick, reaching out from my body to score a line around myself.

Now my favorite tool to draw with is a stick dipped in ink.
figure stretch

Studio space

August 6, 2011

The year I moved into this house I spent hours and hours out in the shed making paintings.

Pouring house paint of every description (as long as it was from the mistint shelf or remnants hidden away in sheds) I felt like an alchemist, letting the particular nature of one paint or varnish do it’s thing with another. Water-based, oil, enamel, shellac, bitumen, gritty paving paint, whatever I could find.

The neutrality or lairiness of these would-be discards took me into new colour territory, a challenge I heartily accepted. But usually the bite or the light of my pallette of artist acrylics were called upon to redeem an otherwise dying canvas. It was all so much fun, and often a great mess.
A work space influences the work produced. Upstairs now in my comfortable carpetted heated and cooled studio the work has become more careful, and smaller. The value of this chance to make gentle works on paper and quiet portraits, colour studies and window views has been immeasurable.

But a larger airy space is calling me.
Song 2

Yesterday soon after Margaret Olley left this world a baby girl named Beatrix was born to friends of mine. I heard Margaret talk about the wheel of life, about giving and receiving and giving, and now I’m thinking about the wheel of life and death and life.

Her house was one big still life, the inspiration for her many paintings. Every now and then I paint a still life. It makes me still. Once I heard Donald Friend say that the best thing about a still life is that you can eat the subject when you’ve finished!
still life with caserole
This morning I watched a doco about James Castle, an American artist who drew every day of his life from 6 years of age. He drew with soot, spit and a stick onto found papers and card. An amazing collection of hundreds of drawings and objects made by a man who couldn’t hear and so was not distracted by the miriad noises that fill the world. His will is what made him great. His choice to make art, without the clutter of doubt. (He also had a family who supported him, but don’t let that stop the rest of us!)

Perhaps Margaret had that clarity too. Just make the work. A ribbon around 60 years worth of artworks and a new babe in the world.

aiden july 10

The reason for my good fortune yesterday was the opening of an exhibition of paintings by 4 artists/friends who went to central Australia a while back for a workshop with Elisabeth Cummings. (At the time I didn’t want to hear their stories because I was so jealous.) This morning was the artist talk, and what fun it was. Generous and funny. The images seemed to glow off the walls. Not everything can be expressed in words.
It felt good to hear other painters talk of the ‘wonderful anguish’ that painting causes; discovering what the work is about along the way or right at the end of the making; emmersing oneself in the world and then returning to the studio to begin who knows what? We fumble and fidget and hope for a moment of flow, and when it happens we wonder where it came from.
grampians 3
Gathering drawings and paintings from a place is a way of understanding and later remembering some small truth about that place. Time and attention. I found a few drawings from my travels –  in the Grampians after the fires, and up north on the crater rim around Mount Warning.
Pinnacles Mt Warning

Well I’ve just spent the evening with the woman whose paintings have moved me as much as any works of art ever have. Her name is Elisabeth Cummings and I first saw her work live at a show in Melbourne 9 years ago.

Mum and I met at the station from opposite directions and we walked up Flinders Lane to see the exhibition. With one look we were both enthralled and stayed there for a long time. When our feet began to ache on the concrete floor we sat cross-legged together against a pillar so we could stay with these beautiful images a little longer, me wishing for a lotto win on Mum’s weekly ticket.

Elisabeth has been a silent mentor for me since then, a steady light. Tonight we talked of art and teaching, family and community, of going out into the world to make art, and working quietly at home. I feel happy to have finally met her.

Copy of parallel lives 1

Snow shoes

July 14, 2011

Tomorrow I’ll see some snow for the first time this winter. When I shut my eyes lately it feels like snow might be all around me. Had to sleep with an extra blanket on last night.

The only time I have attempted cross-country skiing it ended in tears. When I got home and spoke to a couple of girlfriends, they told me I was not alone in that. One friend said it took her the whole first season to feel confident.

Although my desire to ski is minimal, the challenge it poses and the delights it offers make it a tempting goal. Some days.

After the trauma of that initiation had worn off a bit I was inspired to prepare my body for a possible second attempt. The thing that noone had told me of beforehand was the inescapable and treacherous side-slide. I thought skis went forward and backward. Who could know they go sideways as well? In opposite directions.

In the small world that is my brain I came up with a rollerskate that does the same.
exercise device for ski training

Far from the source

July 9, 2011

I have believed that we can connect with anyone if we look past the roles, the age, gender, circumstances, genetics, beliefs. That the generation gap is a construct, as is religion and social status. That distance can be overcome by true engagement.

But the extra stuff gets in the way. Memory, history, associations, expectations.

My sons are in my life because I am their mother, but surely not only because of that. I’ve always been very aware of them as beings separate from me, who have graced my life for reasons known only to our souls.

My dear friend Olive was 73 when we met, and I was 28 and our age gap was never a consideration.

I met a man once in a club, with whom I connected before he even saw me, and we talked for the next 3 hours like old friends (completely sober), and I’ve never seen him again.

And for each of these connections there have been times when fear or pride or ignorance have prevented me from connecting. But I always believed it was possible.

Now I’m not so sure. I think for much of our lives we get buried under the constructed layers, far removed from the essential being of each of us and all of us. Hiding behind the complexities of the mind.
veil sm